Bibb County deputies received a fraud alert in May from Prevatek, one of the vendors for accounts inmates use to pay for phone calls, commissary goods and bonds.
“They noticed that different account holders’ credit card information was being used to deposit money on inmates’ accounts,” investigator Jason Batchelor said. “It was all originating from the same (computer) IP address.”
After several weeks of investigation, including listening to inmates’ recorded phone conversations and reviewing financial records, deputies have arrested 17 people in connection with a credit card fraud racket involving an estimated $20,000. Arrest warrants have been issued for another five people.
Denise Krieger, 41, allegedly stole identities and credit card information from people across the country while working for Internet businesses such as 1-800- FLOWERS, running an unlicensed tax preparation business and reselling overstocked goods, according to the sheriff’s office.
At times, she claimed to be a representative for a legitimate company, concealing her phone number, and she solicited information from those she called, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.
Krieger and others then used the credit card information to deposit money into Bibb County jail inmates’ accounts, Batchelor said.
“Some were getting more funds than others,” he said. “Usually deposit amounts were between $50 and $100” to avoid being flagged by credit card company alerts.
Batchelor said a core group of people recruited other inmates to participate in the fraud ring.
The inmates agreed to have money from the fraudulent transactions deposited into their accounts. Generally, more than the amount needed for a bond was deposited, and the inmate paid the “core group” with the remainder upon release, he said.
Deputies, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Internal Revenue Service, conducted a “street sweep” serving two search warrants on Hillcrest and Anthony roads and arrest warrants in the case.
Krieger and six other people charged in the case were arrested on the day of the sweep. Nine already were in jail.
As part of the sweep, authorities found documents and ledgers that contained credit card and identifying information for several hundred people, according to the sheriff’s office.
Although the group has been charged based on alleged fraud documented from May and June, authorities still are investigating to determine how far back the fraud reaches.
More arrests are anticipated, Batchelor said.
All but three of the 22 people accused in the case are charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.
Arrest warrants allege Krieger and her son, 21-year-old Kodie Thomas Frank DiDiego, both of Macon, made “regular, fraudulent financial transaction card transfers or deposits over an approximate two-month period.”
Krieger is charged with 194 counts of identity fraud, a RICO violation and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. DiDiego is charged with 58 counts of identity fraud, a RICO violation and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Both also are charged with participation in criminal street gang activity on allegations they belong to the Westside Gangsta Crips street gang.
Seventeen others are charged with RICO violations and are accused of “knowingly and willingly” receiving fraudulent funds from Krieger and DiDiego while held at the county jail. Each is charged with multiple counts of financial identity fraud.
Those charged are:
Cassius Eugene Harris, 26; Jessica Robin Smith, 26; Rosalind James, 55; Denise Dean, 34; Tamiko Thorpe, 46; Nikkole Kapree Barnes, 24; Kewaunis Destavez King, 26; Tasha Yolanda Phillips, 30; Sharod William Tremaine Simmons, 27; Rashawn Ariel Scott, 22; Ashley Irene Godfrey, 29; Demetria Latrice Davis, 43; Shenita Quinta Harris, 33; Tiffany Nicole Londy, 27; Latoya Jamaica Solomon, 34; Christopher Bilow, 34; and Valerie Elizabeth Gradymiller, 30, all of Macon.
Each is in custody except Davis, Londy, Bilow, Shenita Harris and Solomon, according to the sheriff’s office.
Krieger’s ex-husband, 39-year-old Jamie Krieger of Macon, is charged with financial identity fraud, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
He is accused of providing help or instruction to minors for transferring unauthorized financial transaction card money to jail inmates’ accounts, according to his arrest warrants.
Gregory Dewayne Dinkins Sr., 38, and Michael James Jackson Jr., 26, both of Macon, also are charged with financial identity fraud. Dinkins is accused of acting as “an intermediary” in facilitating transactions between Denise Krieger and Thorpe, according to his arrest warrant.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 478-751-7500 or Macon Regional Crimestoppers at 877-68-CRIME.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.